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2. Challenges

Despite their many contributions, pastoralists have experienced neglect by the State and the private sector. This is visible on three inter-related fronts:

First, there are growing restrictions on herders with regard to accessing their traditional grazing grounds.

Second, there have been very few attempts by the state or the private sector to invest in pastoral livelihoods.

Third, over the past seven decades, there have been only a handful of instances in which animals bred by pastoral communities have been recognised as distinct breeds.

Each of these factors has played a part in reducing the younger generation’s interest in herding, with the result that a perfectly productive livelihood that is capable of generating strong household incomes is at risk of gradual decline. While transitions are inevitable, the problem with this one, in particular, is that there are limited opportunities within heavily contested urban and semi-urban wage markets.

The concern is that a population that can continue making unique contributions to regional and national economies, biological diversity and art and crafts is slowly being forced to the margins. Long-term systematic engagement with these communities structured around investments in livelihoods, restoration of their grazing lands and recognition of their breeds, holds the key to re-igniting interest in herding and thereby re-building a crucial livelihood in rural India.

See this primer for more on Indian pastoralism.